Let the work begin: The rebuilding of the Woodson Museum

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

I would like to join Dr. Davis and the many community stakeholders who were able to attend the press conference in giving kudos to Mayor Richard Kriseman on his recent decision for the City of St. Petersburg to purchase the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum.

I would also like to thank the person or persons from HUD that reminded us that the Hope VI Supportive Services Plan specified the public use of that building, which was the vision of the Jordan Park residents and other community stakeholders who thought it noteworthy to memorialize the many significant accomplishments that African Americans made in St. Petersburg.

In a February 1 letter to the editor, I urged the Woodson Museum Board to take heed that in times of limited public resources and increased public need, three words reign supreme: Accountability, collaboration and inclusion!

While some took pot shots and hurled insults at City Councilman Wengay Newton and Housing Authority board members, we must be reminded that these individuals are elected and appointed to be stewards of our public resources and that as taxpayers we should hold them accountable.

If for some reason they believe public funds are not being managed in the manner in which they should be, it is their responsibility to due diligence and ask the tough questions.  If for some reason public officials err in their decision about the level of accountability, it is the responsibility of those entities in question to present sound evidence through appropriate documentation that can withstand public scrutiny and to not interpret the inquiry as an assault.

Then and only then if presented with the appropriate documentation that can withstand public scrutiny and public officials choose to yield to a political agenda as opposed to taking actions that are in the best interest of the public, then and only then do those of us who vote have a responsibility to hold them accountable by voting them out of office.

Once again I am going to point to the leadership competency of emotional intelligence. We call on our leaders to lead. In the decision to purchase the Woodson Museum, Mayor Kriseman exemplified the actions of a leader who when faced with a decision that would significantly impact the City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the State of Florida,  he put politics aside, and instead made a decision that would serve the public’s interest not anyone’s political interest.

It is this type of leadership that we should all follow. The Carter G. Woodson Museum sparked emotions that drew many to City Council meetings, housing authority meetings and press conferences, which is good, however, if we are to build a museum that the State of Florida, Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg can be proud of we must put aside the emotions that drive wedges as opposed to building bridges.

Museum planner Mark Walhimer, in his book “Museums 101” listed 10 basic steps individuals interested in starting a museum should consider prior to starting a museum. Make no mistake; the 10 steps listed are embedded in tasks that are framed within strategic planning.  The building of an institution that memorializes the accomplishments of African Americans will take planning, innovation, inclusion, transparency, strategic partnerships, money and more money.  As one of many community stakeholders, I am excited to see the work begin!

– Maria a L. Scruggs

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